7 DECEMBER 2002, Page 36

Brotherly values

From Mr M.J. Coleman Sir: As a former pupil, it saddens me to see the continued use of one man's bitter personal experience to blacken both the name of the Christian Brothers Order and the character of their pupils (Michael Vestey, Books, 16 November).

The Catholic community in England owes a considerable debt of gratitude to the Irish Christian Brothers. The schools they built are recognised centres of excellence, not only academically but also in the fields of sports, arts and community service. The Brothers provided Catholic boys — many of whom came from very humble backgrounds indeed — the chance to expand their horizons and fulfil their potential in a way that was simply not available to the Catholic community outside of fee-paying private schools.

In my experience discipline was strict but never 'sadistic'. I can honestly say I never received the strap but that it wasn't well deserved. I can also assure Mr Vestey that straightforwardness, honesty and a willingness to take responsibility for your actions were virtues that the Brothers were keen to develop and emphasise. It was not an environment in which 'yes men' or those seeking to curry favour with superiors flourished.

M.J. Coleman